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Paeoniflorin exerts antidepressant-like effects through enhancing neuronal FGF-2 by microglial inactivation

Ethnopharmacological relevance Paeonia lactiflora is a famous Traditional Chinese medicine widely used for immunological regulation. Paeoniflorin, the main component of Paeonia lactiflora, exerts neuroprotective and antidepressant-like effects in rodents.

Aim of the study: Fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF-2) is essentially required in the central nervous system as it acts as both a neurotrophic factor and an anti-inflammatory factor participating in the regulation of proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis of neurons in the brain. However, it is unclear whether paeoniflorin could exert antidepressant effects via regulating FGF-2.

Materials and methods: In the present study, the effects of paeoniflorin were evaluated in depressive mice induced by the endotoxin lipopolysaccharide (LPS) injection.

Results: The results showed that paeoniflorin markedly increased sucrose preference and reduced immobility time in LPS mice, indicating antidepressant effects. Consistent with the results from molecular docking showing paeoniflorin antagonizes TLR4, NF-κB and NLRP3, the biochemical analysis also indicated paeoniflorin inhibited TLR4/NF-κB/NLRP3 signaling, decreased proinflammatory cytokine levels and microglial activation in the hippocampus of LPS induced mice. In addition, the levels of neuronal FGF-2 and the density of dendritic spine were improved by paeoniflorin. More importantly, the FGFR1 inhibitor SU5402 prevented the antidepressant effects of paeoniflorin and blocked the neuroinflammatory and neurogenic regulatory effects of paeoniflorin, indicating that FGF-2/FGFR1 activation was required for the effects of paeoniflorin.

Conclusion: Taken together, the results demonstrate that paeoniflorin exhibits neuroprotective and antidepressant effects in mice, which may be mediated by activating neuronal FGF-2/FGFR1 signaling via the inhibition of microglial activation in the hippocampus.

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